On Your Mark, Get Set, GO!

On Your Mark...

Get Set


MOTIVATION: Fiona needs summer tops & PRP sew along

INSPIRATION: Original Top Design & sportswear theme

NEW TECHNIQUES: Refashioning a woman’s top, sewing leggings

Since we are about two weeks away from our international move, and I really should be packing up the sewing machine instead of sewing on it, I had to keep this one really simple.  I also have been going through old clothes that I have kept around. I have two bins of clothes (mine,Rijen’s, hand-me-downs) that are not being worn anymore,  but that I have wanted to keep because I always think that I am going to get around to “upcycling” them.

I have seen a lot of tutorials for refashioning this into that, but I have never done it. I am tired of dragging around these clothes and I decided before I ship them overseas yet again, I should try it and see how successful the process really is.

I decided on this Calvin Klein top I had bought on a shopping trip with my dad and brother in 2007.  The last time I wore it regularly was pre-Fiona, so 3 years ago. The last time I wore it and have unfortunate pro0f to show that one should never wear an XS shirt post -baby is shown below. (At a cemetery in Leesburg, VA). It was never one of my favorite shirts- the orange being a bold move for me, especially back then- but I thought the V neckline in the front and the back was interesting.

I know I wore it (not on purpose) in a picture that was my ID card when I taught high school, which is a funny picture because I was running into the school from my other high school and they told me I had to go take pictures and my face is all flushed the same color as the shirt. Sadly, I don’t know where that picture is so I have to show these other unflattering ones:




I think all three of us look much better three years later, don’t you agree?

I know there are lots of tutorials for this kind of thing online, but I knew that if I started searching for “t-shirt refashion” etc, I would probably spend a lot of time looking at all the different ideas and then have trouble deciding. So for once, I didn’t look at anything on line and just got the shirt out, laid it out on the table and thought about what I wanted.

Original Shirt

I wanted to preserve as much of the shirt as possible to save me time. I wanted it to fit the sportswear challenge. I wanted it to be interesting. I wanted it to fit well and be comfortable. I did NOT want it to look like she was wearing her mom’s old shirt. After thinking through a few things and making some sketches, I figured out what I wanted to do, and it is pretty simple!

So here it is, a tutorial to refashion a V-neck T-shirt into a little girl’s tunic in FIVE EASY STEPS.

Cut, insert elastic, flip, gather, sew.

1. CUT apart the pieces you want to work with.

With my rotary cutter, I just made a straight cut 1 inch below the V neck.  I also cut 2 inches off the top of the bottom section (to get rid of the bustline gathers). I actually  later made the resulting 2 in. wide long strip into a tube for a sash to go with the top, but then I forgot I had done that when I took pictures.

2. Insert Elastic into the bottom hem of the shirt for the waist casing.

The hem of the shirt can be used as a casing. I cut a 20 inch length of 1/2 inch wide elastic and pinned a safety pin on one end.  Then, using my seam ripper, I found the side seam of the bottom hem and released enough stitches to fit the safety pin & elastic through.

I then inserted the elastic and pulled it all the way through.  I pinned both sides of the elastic together with the safety pin and left it like that so that I could adjust it later as needed when I fitted it to my daughter.

3. Flip

Now you can see that the bottom of the shirt is now the waistline! (Since this is a tunic, the “waistline” is actually between the bustline and her waist).

4. Gather

You can see that the elastic causes the waist to gather, while the top still has much more circumference. I then gathered the bottom edge of the top piece by sewing a line of basting stitches along the cut edge and then adjusting the gathers as needed.

Gathered edges

5. Sew together

I then flipped the top piece inside out and laid over the bottom, keeping the right sides together. I usually try and get away with not pinning things, but this is a time when pinning is important. You want to keep the gathers even all around. I didn’t want to accidentally have a flatter section and then a really gathered section.

Ready to sew

Sewn together!


It already looks like a little dress, and it wasn’t too much work.  However, the problem is the fit on top.  At this point it was late at night and I had to wait until the morning to try it on my daughter and see how to adjust the neckline and the sleeves so that it fit.

In the morning, when I tried it on her, I liked it overall, but of course the sleeves were falling off and it just didn’t look right. I tried 2 ideas for the sleeve before I settled on what I liked.  I tried sewing a small piece of elastic on the sleeve shoulder seam to gather it a bit. I also just tried gathering it with thread like I had already done to see how I liked that. However, I didn’t like the look of the ruching on the top. It looked “cheap” to me and not sporty.

I ended up finger pleating a few box pleats and pinning them.

Finger pleat & pin

One sleeve finished

Here you can see how a few pleats shortens the length of the sleeve considerably.  I hand-stitched the pleats- mainly because I didn’t have thread that matched well and I didn’t want the red thread to show. Hand-stitching also gave me a bit more control on how the pleats laid along the shoulder seam.

Finished Sleeves

Now the neckline and sleeves are done, and you didn’t even have to sew them! Just adjust!

When I tried it on though, it helped, but the sleeves were still prone to slipping off. I felt that if I couldn’t find a solution to this, there was no point in going forward with the project.  I didn’t want a refashioned garment to be a annoyance to her or myself.

Luckily, I came up with the idea of sewing a piece of thick elastic to the back. I felt this would also add to the
“sp0rty” look of the garment.

I happened to have some 3-in wide white elastic on hand for a mini-circle skirt I sewed with my niece Meghan. I felt that was a bit too wide for the shirt, so I just cut it in half.  I took this strip of 1.5 inch wide, 2.5 inch long elastic and sewed it at the back top, right under the shoulder seam on the back.

I lined the top of the elastic even with the top shoulder seam. I then stitched it twice on each side to secure: Once in the ditch along the seam of the “V,” and then I top stitched it right along the edge of the elastic.

It took a few tries to figure out the placement, but I like how it turned out in the end.  I tried it a bit lower, but then the sleeves would still fall to the side. This way, it keeps the sleeves up and is comfortable. You can see in the plethora of pictures below that throughout all the running and activity, it stays in place and doesn’t shift.

The only thing left was the hem. I trimmed a little to get the length of tunic I wanted, turned up the bottom edge, and then sewed a hem using a double needle (since I don’t have a serger). This was my first time to try that and it worked out pretty well.

I did NOT sew the leotard underneath, that is from an expensive shopping trip to American Apparel.

I DID sew the leggings though- She does have GAP long leggings, but I couldn’t find them last night, and then I figured it would be good for her to have shorter light-weight leggings for summer, and it would be good for me to learn to sew them.

I had a nice light-weight black knit and I roughly used a pattern from Growing Up Sew Liberated for the leggings. Since this pattern is from the book, I’m not going to write more about it, but I do recommend the book. This is the first thing I’ve done from it. And when I say roughly, this means I didn’t bother to take the time to trace/cut out the pattern, but I looked at the pattern shape and used an existing pair of leggings to cut out the knit, and then reading the instructions in the book really helped.  I made them shorter of course so that they are nice for spring/summer.

New Leggings & Old Ironing board

So, that was last night, and around 6:30 this morning when my hungry baby woke up, I figured if things worked out well, I might bake the 8AM MST deadline for the PRP sewalong.  Thankfully, the kids were in good moods and the clothes fit!

We walked over to the middle school field and had some fun on the hill and the track. Rijen was walking the same direction to the bus, so mid-way through he met us on the track & Fiona got to tell him goodbye.

She had some very creative poses!

  After this, I happened to look over and see Rijen walking to the bus stop, so I called him over and we all went down to the track.

This is what I look like after rolling out of bed after staying up till 1Am sewing. Luckily, the baby thinks I’m beautiful.

Goodbye, Daddy!

After saying goodbye, we had a few races together. She learned how to do “On your Mark, Get Set, Go” at the hotel in Garmisch, so it was fun to see her do it on a real track.

 Here is where I make the startling realization that I sewed Fiona the outfit version of our stroller! Can Bugaboo please sponsor me?

 Here you can see that with all the running, the top stays on just fine! It is loose and airy and could also make a great swimsuit cover-up. I think it will look cute with jeans as well and could go over a long-sleeved shirt in the fall. 

Leif had to participate in our Morning Olympics as well. His event is the 1 yard crawl.

I honestly didn’t foresee the track as being a feature of a photo-shoot- I came here to see the flowers on the hill, but it is actually a really fun place for pictures. Too bad I didn’t have him in something “sportier.”

 This is his expression when he realizes that he is crawling the wrong way!

I've been lapped.

After this, the race was on for me to get back to upload the pictures on time to the PRP Flickr pool.  I only had 10 minutes to spare. Am I the only person sewing things the night before and taking pictures in the morning? Honestly though, I know the deadline helps me to actually get things finished, so I appreciate that!

We did take time to get some donut holes on our way back though.



I was glad I tried upcycling this shirt because the process helped me think critically about what is worth saving from an “old clothes” pile.  One of the reasons this shirt was discarded was because the style became a bit old, and it didn’t fit my post-baby nursing bustline.  It also had a few small holes in it.

I thought that when I upcycled it, I could avoid the holes, however since this look took almost all of the original fabric, there is still a hole in it.  The only thing I did was to turn the bottom so that the hole is in the back not the front. I can mend holes, but that is something to keep in mind when considering the fabric quality of a discarded shirt.  If there are a few holes, it may not be worth keeping since you will have to bother with mending them, and it may be a sign that the fabric has weakened and will continue to get little holes- or wasn’t the best quality to begin with.

If the fabric is dingy or badly picked up, it is probably not worth taking the time and effort to upcycle.

I don’t think it is a good idea to keep a garment you didn’t like, even if you think you will be able to transform it. If I didn’t love the color, I probably won’t like it even if I improve the style  & etc.

I’m hoping I can keep all of this in mind and pare my bins of old clothes down to one box.  We’ll see how that goes!